Two villagers were publicly “executed” in a market by separatist rebels in western Cameroon in the grip of fighting between the army and separatists from the English-speaking minority who are accustomed to this type of assassination, the prefect said on Thursday.
For almost seven years, a deadly conflict has opposed the two camps, each accused of crimes against civilians by international NGOs and the UN, in the North-West and South-West regions, populated mainly by the English-speaking minority of this predominantly French-speaking Central African country.
Late Wednesday afternoon, “a group of armed terrorists invaded the village of Guzang”, in the North-West, “kidnapped two civilians from their home who they then summarily executed by gunfire in the market square, in front of a crowd of helpless people”, wrote Benoît Nicaise Fouda Etaba, the prefect of the Momo department, in a press release on Thursday.
The authorities generally call the English-speaking armed groups who demand the independence of the two regions “terrorists”. The latter frequently carry out targeted assassinations of civilians, particularly civil servants and teachers, whom they accuse of “collaborating” with the central power.
The victims are the younger brother of the Fon of Guzang, the traditional chief of the village, and a small trader, according to the prefect.
The attackers “accused them of collaboration with the army,” a local administration official who requested anonymity told AFP by telephone. “This happened in front of the population, including their family members,” lamented a leader of a local civil society organization, anonymously for fear of reprisals.
At the beginning of July, Amnesty International was once again alarmed by “atrocities” of which civilians are regularly victims, in particular, “extrajudicial executions”, “homicides” of residents including women and children, “torture” and “rape”. , perpetrated by security forces and armed separatists alike.
At the end of 2016, President Paul Biya, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for more than 40 years, violently repressed peaceful demonstrations by English speakers who felt they were ostracized and marginalized by the central power in this former French colony.
Then many groups took up arms and proclaimed in 2017 the “independence” of a region they call “ Ambazonia”. Mr. Biya, 90 years old, intractable, has sent troops there massively ever since. The conflict has killed more than 6,000 people and forced more than a million people to flee, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
Armed groups also frequently engage in kidnapping for ransom. During the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, near Kumbo, in the North-West, 11 villagers including a woman were freed during an army operation, the local prefecture said in a press release.